Burial Vaults or Grave Liners are containers that enclose a casket to help prevent a grave from caving in as the casket deteriorates over time. The weight of the earth on top of the casket or the passage of heavy cemetery maintenance equipment can cause a casket to collapse, allowing the ground above to sink and settle. This mars the appearance of the cemetery and makes it harder to maintain. The vault or liner, typically made of reinforced concrete, is placed in the ground before burial, and the casket is then lowered into it. A grave liner (typically costing $700-$1000) covers only the top and sides of the casket, not the bottom; it will satisfy any cemetery requirements. A burial vault is more substantial and expensive ($900-$13,000) than a grave liner. It surrounds the casket on all six sides in concrete or metal and may be sold with a warranty of protective strength.

State law does not require a vault or liner, and funeral providers are not permitted to tell you otherwise. However, many cemeteries do require an outer burial container to prevent the grave from sinking in the future. Neither grave liners nor burial vaults are designed to prevent the eventual decomposition of human remains, and it is illegal for funeral providers to claim that a vault will keep water, dirt, or other debris from penetrating into the casket.

Before showing you any outer burial containers, a funeral provider is required to give you a list of prices and descriptions. It may be less expensive to buy an outer burial container from a third-party dealer than from a funeral home or cemetery. Compare prices from several sources before you select a model.